Last week we talked about informational interview, the awkward but necessary step in the job search process. Hopefully, those informational interviews led to a job lead, which led to you submitting a resume (because you really can’t get a job you don’t apply for). And with any luck, you’ve scored an interview! An actual, official interview with a real live person who works at the organization or company. You’re on a high and are probably thinking: They like me, they really like me. Well stop. While an interview does mean that a company is interested in you and is considering you for a position, you haven’t landed anything yet. Plenty of companies receive hundreds of resumes for one position and will interview many of the top applicants. Not to rain on your parade though, if you rock an interview, it could definitely land you the job.
Who are you interviewing with? Learn everything possible about the company and position for which you’re applying. If you’re fortunate enough to know anyone working at the company – a friend or alum – definitely get in contact with them to learn more about the culture. Also, see if you can find out anything about the person who will be interviewing you – this is the age of Google, it doesn’t hurt to get a little background on everyone. Employers expect you to walk into an interview knowing the basics about what they do, so be prepared.
What should you say? It helps to have a firm grasp on what you will be doing in the position for which you’re applying. Think about what skills you’ll be asked to use, and then think of previous experiences where you’ve demonstrated those skills or personal qualities. These don’t need to be purely professional examples, you have a life! Think about when you demonstrated leadership to deal with a conflict, took the initiative to follow through on a project you were passionate about, or used your analytical skills when working on a research paper.
What should you wear? A suit. Unless it is stressed that the company is very casual. Then you can get away with business causal. Guys, khakis and dress shirts will usually work. Throw on a jacket to class things up. A belt and nice shoes won’t hurt either. For the ladies, leave the low cut shirts and shorter skirts at home. Tone down the makeup and please, no crazy color nail polish. As a general life rule, it’s always good to look clean and presentable.
Schedule the interview when you know you will be calm and well prepared. If you aren’t a morning person, explain that you would prefer a time slot in the afternoon, if possible. Be flexible and maximize your ability to do well. Leave enough time to get to the interview and arrive 10-15 minutes early. You don’t want to be rushing in after sitting through a stressful metro ride. And the last thing you want to do is be late. Hopefully this isn’t something we should even have to mention but should you be late, make sure to call the office before your meeting to let them know. But please, do everything possible so that you don’t have to make this call!
In the old days, the majority of interviews took place in an office with both people sitting in the same room face to face. This is still the most preferable option, but phone and Skype interviews (video included) are also very common. For a phone or Skype interview, be sure you are sitting somewhere where you won’t get distracted. If the person on the other end can see you, sit at a table or desk and position the camera chest up. This isn’t the time for full body shots. You may feel like there’s too much awkward silence between questions, but try not to jabber on just to fill up empty space. A phone interview can be especially difficult or uncomfortable because there are no body cues for you to read, and it can be hard to tell when you’re supposed to talk. Take a couple of seconds after the interviewer finishes speaking before you start. This will prevent you from speaking over the person and also gives you some time to form a response.
Remember, the interview is your time to shine. Rather than writing about yourself in your resume and cover letter, you will be having a conversation with someone who already thinks you’re qualified. Since employers have already weeded out applicants that they would never hire by this point, the interview is more about making a good impression and letting them get to know you. Interviews can range from extremely formal to more casual, but many employers will ultimately make their decision based on who they personally like more and who they can see fitting in at the company. Be the person they want to grab a drink with after work, not the know it all recent grad.